Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club Meeting

Thursday, August 26, 1993 | Drexel University

Philly HP Group Birthday

The Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club, on which the PACS HP Handheld SIG is based, celebrated its fifteenth birthday in August. We originally formed in August of 1978 as a satellite "chapter" of the original PPC Calculator Club, which had been going strong since June of 1974. The PPC club faded away in 1986 and other clubs such as CHHU and HPX came and went, but a handful of the regional groups have stuck it out all this time, such as the Chicago "CHIP" group, the Southern California group and us. The hard core handheld enthusiasts haven't yet lost the spirit.

New Donnelly Book a Hit

Jim Donnelly's new second edition of his HP48 Handbook which now covers both the HP48 S and G series machines looks like a success story. With 341 pages, over a hundred programming examples and a massive command summary, this book looks like another "must-have" for the serious HP48 user. An especially interesting chapter covers dozens of internal HP48G/GX entry points which can be accessed via the SYSEVAL command. This is a nice introduction to the language HP calls "System-RPL", which is further supported in HP's Development Tools software suite, available on EduCalc's Goodies Disk #4 for a nominal cost.

In addition, Jim's new HP48 Pocket Book is a nice carry-around quick reference. This time around, HP decided that there was no need for a pocket reference to go along with the calculator (presumably because the built-in ROM includes browsers for the system flags and the ASCII character set). My only gripe about Jim's version would be its being just a quarter inch too wide to fit inside the carrying case with the calculator.

Hewlett-Packard's new Advanced User's Reference for the HP48G/GX machines has finally started appearing on the dealers' shelves as well. This twenty-dollar tome is nearly 800 pages long with many subjects covered which were either skipped or merely glossed over in the standard manuals.

Large HP48 RAM On the Way

By the time this article is printed, the new HP one-megabyte RAM cards (for a list price of $399.00) should be available for the HP48GX. This will act as 8 separate 128 Kbyte pages of independent RAM memory, attached to port 2 of the calculator. Sparcom's 2-meg and 4-meg cards should appear fairly soon as well. For those users for whom money is no object when it comes to massive data/program storage, these cards are just the ticket.

HP48GX Bug Repellent

Earlier this Summer, it had been reported that a nasty bug had reared its ugly head in the HP48GX for ROM versions L and M. The scenario is as follows: If (1) a RAM card is plugged into port 1 and merged with main RAM memory; (2) a library object is stored as a named object in user RAM; and (3) the ticking clock display is turned on, then toggling the power on the machine may cause RAM contents to be corrupted. Hewlett-Packard has finally admitted to the existence of this bad bug and has begun inserting warning notices inside the machines, suggesting that one avoid having all of these conditions be present at the same time. The easiest way to avoid the problem would be to make sure the clock display is off.

There had been rumors of a possible HP recall of Rev M HP48s in order to fix the "ticking-clock" bug, but they have not been substantiated. Meanwhile, some folks communicating on the electronic bulletin boards have reported that HP plans a new ROM version of the machine in the coming months. This is reputed to be rev "P", with versions "N" and "O" being passed over entirely.

HP Trek: The Next Generation

If you're into HP calculator codenames and future projects, this one is for you. The latest HP gossip revolves around discussions in Corvallis, Oregon about a new architecture for the next handheld computing device.

It is commonly agreed that the current "Saturn" CPU architecture for the HP48 is stressed way beyond the limit anybody had expected. The fact is that the current memory address space (of "only" 512 kilobytes) has required that the HP48GX utilize frequent bank-switching operations in order to do its job. And, since bank-switching is slow, the CPU has been doubled in speed. Even so, this only increased throughput by around fifty percent.

So, the word on the street is that the gurus in Oregon are now working on early plans for the future high-end handheld calculating device. And, it has been aptly codenamed "TNG" (for The Next Generation). If we are to assume the the CPU will change, then one would wonder whether HP is considering designing still another proprietary number-crunching CPU (like the original Saturn for the HP71 and its descendants through the HP48) or going with some low-power design based on something already on the shelf. Since the cost of doing a high-performance chip can run in the millions of dollars, it would stand to reason that they might consider using something that is already out there. Which chip that is might be anyone's guess.

On the other hand, porting the existing RPL operating system over to a platform which is completely different could be a more ambitious task than desired. With the current new crop of handheld PDAs from Casio/Tandy and Apple/Sharp, the HP folks might learn a few things about the outside chip world with respect to power consumption, computing MIPS and other important information. There is no doubt that whatever CPU they choose, we'll be ready and waiting to make it jump even higher and run even faster.

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